getting pregnant killed the skinny voices

This is a guest post from Nicolette, who sent me an email saying “I wrote something that should probably be on your blog.” I agreed, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts on what it takes to stop the voices that tell us we should be skinny. Because those damn things can be incredibly persistent. 

The pressure has always been there, ever since I was old enough to notice bodies or to read Teen magazine (who is that younger version of myself who actually had a subscription to that magazine? 2012 Nikki can barely recognize her).  It was the pressure to be a certain kind of pretty, to wear make-up, to do my hair a certain way, to have certain clothes, and to be skinny like all the models whose bones played the role of hanger to each month’s trends.

I studied those magazines like they were bibles, and I went to insane lengths to meet their standards.  I showered every single morning.  Every morning I straightened my naturally wavy hair before caking on a layer of foundation/eyeliner/eye shadow/et al.  I felt wrong leaving the house without straight hair, wouldn’t have dreamt of going out without make up.  But the biggest pressure of all was always the pressure to be skinny, horrifyingly, “perfectly” skinny.  Like the hanger women in the magazines.

And yet I’ve always been skinny myself.  As luck would have it, I happen to be genetically programed for the kind of skinny-ness that has been popular in my lifetime; I come from a long line of paperclip-shaped women.  Yet there has still always been the pressure: to be skinnier, to stay skinny.  What if I gained weight?  What if I wasn’t skinny enough?  People would comment on my skinniness all the time: they wanted to know how I stayed so thin, they wished they could be so thin, they were worried that maybe I wasn’t eating enough.  (While I was busy envying them their curves and their cup sizes and eating like I had hollow legs.  The grass, greener, etc.)  Through the constant mention, my skinniness started to become a part of my identity.  Which only made the pressure worse because it felt like gaining weight would mean losing a part of who I was.

Even though I have long given up the values that used to compel me to put on make up every morning or straighten my hair or even wear deoderant, I’ve never been able to think myself out of the skinny pressure.  Even with a partner who loves me no matter what I look like or how round my belly becomes, I’d never found a way to accept my belly no matter how round it became because I’d never found a way to stop the skinny voices.  Even though I no longer read beauty magazines or watch television or expose myself to the media pressure to look a certain way, it remains, it refuses to leave me in peace.

I’m largely ok with my body these days, and I’m not looking for any sort of pity in mentioning this.  This is not a serious problem, but I think it is a pretty common one.  Thing is, the voices telling me that I need a flatter stomach or less thigh, no matter how often I intellectualize them away, regardless of the fact that I have at least managed to stop letting them influence how I live my life, just wouldn’t shut up.  And I think a majority of women—though with the dawning of so many men’s beauty magazines, probably most men at this point too—hear the skinny voices too.

That is, until I got pregnant.

Once I was pregnant the pressure disappeared.  Instantly.  There was a big echoing space where it had been, and I was stunned.  I hadn’t believed that it was possible.  I had thought I would have to deal with the skinny voices for the rest of my life, futilely trying to talk myself out of hearing them in some sort of body image purgatory and never finding a gag big enough to stuff their big traps.

But suddenly nobody expected anything from my body anymore, most of all me.  I didn’t need to work to be conventionally sexy, I just was.  Everything my body did was perfect.  Every pound I gained was part of the life of the little sea worm swimming in my stomach.  Every pound I gained made me even sexier because being pregnant is as sexy as it gets, is the embodiment of sex itself.  I began to understand how miraculous and powerful my body was.  It could build a human with a complex nervous system and a brain!  It could create the milk needed to feed another human!  It could adapt to having all its organs pushed out of their usual places!  My body could do no wrong, and the pressure was gone!  The pressure was gone!

There are a lot of ladies who don’t feel like this during pregnancy.  There are ladies that feel ugly and fat and terrible.  (I wish they didn’t because I think they look great.  Contrary to my weird-o expectations for myself, I think women with lots of curves are  gorgeous.)  But for them the pressure to look a certain way doesn’t stop; the magic doesn’t work for everyone.  I don’t want to make those women feel bad for feeling that way, during pregnancy or ever.  But I want them and every other woman who has ever heard the skinny voices telling her she looks all wrong every time she looks in the mirror to know it is possible.  It is possible to turn off the skinny voices!  And if they can be silenced during pregnancy, then maybe they can be silenced outside of it.  Maybe there is a gag big enough to shut them up after all.

*  *  *

How did you feel about your body during your pregnancy? And for those who have never been pregnant, how do you deal with the skinny voices?  (If you hear them at all.  And if you don’t hear them, I want to know how you managed that too.)

Nicolette’s Unroast: Hmm, I’ve never done an unroast before.  Today I love the way I look in polka dots.

Nicolette’s bioOnce upon a time Nicolette Stewart escaped from a 9-5 job through the tunnel she had been secretly digging behind the water cooler with her stapler and has been at large in Europe ever since. Nicolette, alias Click Clack Gorilla, is an expecting mama, dumpster-diving, time traveling writer who lives in a teeny tiny caravan in a squatted intentional community in Germany. You can read more about her thoughts on parenting, tiny house livin’, dumpster diving, and expat life on ClickClackGorilla

P.S. Kate here– here’s another guest post, from a while ago, about pregnancy. It’s about already being normal. It’s also fabulous. God, I love it when women talk about being pregnant! So cool! Maybe someday I’ll even try it myself…

21 Comments »

Kate on February 24th 2012 in beauty, body, guest post

21 Responses to “getting pregnant killed the skinny voices”

  1. Gia responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 11:51 am #

    I love, love, LOVE being pregnant!!! I can’t have anymore, but if I could keep having babies I would in a second! It’s the most perfectly imperfect thing my body does. It creates, grows and feeds tiny humans.

    To me, that is worth all the eating disorders I yoyo’d through as a teenager from bad self image, it’s worth all the monthly hassle and everything that entails being female. I have beautiful stretch marks. My son calls them my tiger stripes.

  2. Melanie responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    First of all, LOVE that last preggie pic with the little hat. Absolutely precious.

    I myself just got my tubes blocked, but I also think pregnant women exude this power that is palpable. I think you all glow with a radiance unmatched. It’s such an amazing thing.

    I spent years yo yo dieting and starving myself. I’m not a chubby lady and I very rarely have any sort of skinny voices. I’ve beat them in to submission for the most part eating healthily, and exercising, but remaining a big gal. I like myself for the first time in a long time. The chub is part of this new lady I like, so I’m learning to like it too.

    I still have my days, but they’re getting less and less frequent thank goodness. The “it’s okay to be chubby as long as you’re healthy” voices are winning.

  3. Melanie responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    *now* a chubby lady.

  4. Twyla responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I heard skinny voices when I was in middle school and lost twenty pounds. At the beginning of last summer, right before I turned 19 I decided I was tired of exercising, eating, doing things in order to appeal to people around me. And I stopped exercising for a while. I gained some weight and I felt fantastic.
    Now I eat whatever I want and I exercise just as much as I want and to keep my body healthy.

    How did I do it… I just decided to love myself the way I am. Sexy, gorgeous, sometimes frustrating curves and all.

    P.S. I think pregnant women are stunning and I can’t wait to have kids! Although I’m going to wait at least ten years before I start that part of my life.

  5. katie responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Great post, and I’m heading over to your blog asap.
    I love that you talked about how sexy pregnancy is – I’m hoping to get pregnant in the next couple years (only waiting out of necessity because I basically always want to be pregnant RIGHT NOW), and in my heart, that is what I’ve always thought about other pregnant women and hoped that I would feel about myself.

  6. Liz responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Hi Kate! I’m posting this here in hopes it will reach you quickly!!
    I’m so happy to have my Secrets of Moms link on your blogroll, but my domain name was hijacked and that URL is now going to some weird sex page. Would you pretty please change my URL link to http://www.secretsofmomsblog.com? Just add the word “blog”. THANK YOU! Pain in the you know what!!!!

    Nikki,
    Awesome post! I felt the same as you. I loved being pregnant the first time. I was sick the whole second pregnancy so not so sexy feel good then…But, I also thought it was incredibly bizaare how different people treated me and reacted to me as I gained weight. They were actually nicer. One woman went so far as to say she felt more comfortable with me pregannat because it made her feel less fat. This is a societal problem…I’d write more, but I’ve got to go fix my blog issue.
    Congrats!!

  7. Kate responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    @Liz
    Done! Thanks for letting me know!!

  8. Liz responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Thank you!!! xx

  9. Jennifer responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Although being pregnant did not make the skinny voices stop (they formed a choir, along with all the voices of women who told me how their own bodies “went to hell” after babies).

    However–I never felt stronger than after having those babies sans epidural.

    Nursing those babies made my breasts a tool rather than mere accessory.

    AND–as it happened, I weighed less after babies than before. So –HA!– choir!

  10. Kate responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    @Jennifer
    Yes– that choir scares me.

  11. Lavender responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    This was so true for me. I loved being pregnant but I honestly expected the skinny voices to start up again as soon as it was over, but they haven’t. Not at all and it’s been six months now.

    I always felt slightly angry at my body for its imperfections but making a new person together has made us friends. I think we’re cool now.

  12. Diana responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    I loved being pregnant. I never felt more womanly, more beautiful, more strong than I did when I was carrying a child within me.

    Pregnancy empowered me to release the voices and believe I was more than my body, more than a pant size, and more than an article in a magazine.

  13. bethany actually responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    I don’t think I ever had the skinny voices in my head the same way you describe, but I did always feel a nagging that I should probably work out more, lose 10 pounds, not eat those three cookies, etc. And then I got pregnant and had EXACTLY the experience you describe. All thoughts of trying to change my body in any way disappeared instantly. Change my body? Why the hell would I do that, when it was doing its job PERFECTLY and creating life!? It was fantastic. I think it even carried over into post-pregnancy a little, and during my second pregnancy the same thing happened again. It was awesome.

  14. Anna responded on 24 Feb 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I’m afraid of getting pregnant because I’m the kind of person that worries my baby will be a demon or something. My mom thinks this theory isn’t that far off ><;

  15. Jackie responded on 25 Feb 2012 at 8:19 am #

    Great post! You look absolutely beautiful, both pregnant and not.

    I’ve never been able to stop the “skinny voices,” and wish I knew a way. They quiet down when I take good care of myself — when I eat right and exercise. But I wish I could not hear them even when I’m NOT actively trying to lose weight or stay in shape. I hope I don’t have to wait until I get pregnant, which won’t be for awhile, to make them stop. :(

  16. teegan responded on 25 Feb 2012 at 10:07 am #

    With my pregnancy (10 weeks in!), it’s not that the skinny voices were there and then stopped. I’ve been mostly comfortable with myself since around the time I met my husband, with occasional weeks of “alright, time to cut back on the scones at work and walk the dog a little more.”
    Pregnancy means I’m eating better (baby needs iron! folic acid! calcium! protein! more protein! avocado fat!) and walking for 30-60 minutes EVERY SINGLE DAY). I know that I’m treating myself better than many women and even better than many pregnant women. I want to be comfortable with the pregnancy, but more than feeling like I LOOK fat, the bloating and gas make me feel like I AM fat. Just full. Heavy. And so I feel full after I eat anything… until two hours later, when I’m starving again.
    Only when I let myself think about it, though. For example, spending the last week in Paris (which was AWESOME, except for the not being able to drink wine or more than a splash of coffee), I totally ate pain au chocolat all day every day. If this kid doesn’t come out completely addicted to puff pastry, I’ll be shocked. And we were walking all day every day (until my pregnant body was exhausted), so there was no way I was going to guilt myself.
    (and on a side note, I definitely recommend paris in february because you spend the whole time in a coat, bundled up, NOT comparing yourself to the slender parisian girls because they are similarly bundled.)

    As for pregnancy, I do love my growing boobs. I love the ache in my pelvis at night because I know it means my hips are widening for the baby. I love the mama glow I see in the mirror and the way pregnancy hormones seem to keep me less moody than I can ever remember. I love the dopey grin my husband gives me whenever we talk about the baby or even hint at the baby or when he thinks about the baby completely out of the blue. And I know that my curvy body is going to look ADORABLE when I really start to have a baby bump.

  17. Madi responded on 25 Feb 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Skinny voices? Very lucky not to have them, I don’t really know how I avoided them, but I grew up in the middle of the Australian bush in a cabin my parents built themselves and we didn’t have a TV, just books and radio, so I’m guessing that played a part in it. :-D No exposure to the constant media assult of skinny skinny skinny.

    With each of my (3) pregnancies, I gained ten extra kilos that stuck around after the baby was born. Exactly ten, no more, no less. Which makes me think that that is what my body thinks I need to breastfeed and nurture a child.

    So I’m 30kgs heavier than I was at 21, but I’m stronger, fitter, more capable, have wonderful healthy diet, and have a much better appreciation of life in general. Yes, pregnancy is a beautiful thing, and motherhood is joyous, at least it has been for me.

  18. clickclackgorilla responded on 26 Feb 2012 at 4:35 am #

    Thanks for all the awesome feedback guys! I’m so glad to hear how many of you don’t have to deal with the skinny voices or have found ways to be at peace with them. Hope!

    I’m also SO glad to hear a couple of you say that the voices stayed away after the baby was born. I’ve been wondering about that. (Baby is now seven days out, by the way!!) Particularly because every tv show I’ve ever seen involving a pregnant woman who gives birth has the actress looking as skinny as before immediately afterwards. Seems like the pressure to get skinny again after a birth could be a real pain. Then again, here’s hoping they really do stay away forever!

    Cheers!
    -nicolette

  19. Sooz responded on 26 Feb 2012 at 10:15 am #

    I hated being pregnant. And I felt like a beached whale the whole time. I tend to gain a lot of weight when I’m pregnant which is NOT cute for a relatively short woman. The skinny voices have never been silenced for me. I jiggle all over and I am very self-conscious about it. However, I just mentally slap myself upside the head and say to myself, “just get on with your life….no one really cares but you!”. Whether that’s true or not…it helps me get through life. Thanks for the great post.

  20. San D responded on 26 Feb 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    My only experience with pregnancy is watching my sister’s. She would go from size 6 to size 22, have the baby, diet down to size 6, then get pregnant and go from size 6 to 22, and she did that for 3 kids. Now she is a grandmother, and I think she is stable at size 8. So apparently her skinny voices were never silenced. Although she will admit she loved eating up to size 22 (which really isn’t that healthy when you are pregnant). It was like she gave herself permission to eat during her pregnancies.

  21. Ashley @ FROSTEDChic responded on 03 Mar 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Totally agree. Was a major perk to me while being prego. :)